Yesterday I couldn’t wait to get home. I jumped off the tram, walked as fast as I could to my house without breaking into a jog, and had already made it across my lounge room to pull down the blind before my front door slammed behind me.
I slipped my shoes off where I stood, flung my jacket to the floor, then I swiped the pillows off the couch with one hand as took my phone from my pocket with the other and switched it off.
I sat down and breathed a sigh of relief.
I welcomed the darkness and the silence.
I welcomed the fact that I was alone.
I welcomed the empty to-do-list.
Lately I’ve found myself craving my own space – time to reflect, think, write and just be. This year has been busy and I’ve achieved a lot but I’ve had to sacrifice me time – as I like to call it – as a result.
At first I didn’t mind giving up my time because I was enjoying my work and was achieving. And when more work came in I thought this isn’t too bad because in a few weeks things will calm down and then I will get a free night to read the pile of magazines by my bed.
But before I knew it I was working 16-hour days on numerous projects, across a handful of platforms and was booking in time to see my friends and spend time with my partner (who I live with) three weeks in advance.
One morning while I waited for the tram I Googled burn out and symptoms of exhaustion. It was at that point I realised that I didn’t need Google to tell me what I already knew.
I was exhausted.
I was irritable.
I couldn’t think or make decisions.
I didn’t feel like me anymore.
I stood there thinking: What was I doing? How had things got this bad? Why did I do this to myself?
To be honest I’m not really sure what the answers are. What I do know is I spent a lot of my younger years working really hard because I had to so I could take care of myself – working multiple jobs and studying to all hours of the morning. I was praised for this and soon I became known as the girl who could get shit done. I liked being known as this person and this idea of myself stuck.
But without realising it I had fallen into a pattern of always having to be busy. I have trouble being idle (I’ve spoken about this before) because when I am I feel like I’m not achieving anything. It wasn’t until I was so exhausted that I couldn’t see straight that I realised I really wasn’t achieving anything.
So I made a decision to change my life and my self-perception.
I started saying No to people when they asked me to help out even if I knew the project would be fun or be good for my career. I stopped replying to messages and emails as soon as I got them, turned my notifications off and some nights even left my phone in another room.
Instead, I started reading books that were for fun and enjoyment only, went for walks and jogs outdoors, made an effort to try new things and explore the city, and avoided talking about work on breakfast dates with friends.
And you can guess what happened next. I slowly started to feel like me. I was happier and relived when my thoughts and ideas came back. I suddenly had an urge to write again. People started saying how good I looked and how happier I seemed. I liked the new me so I decided what I needed was more me time. I went part-time at work and now I keep every Friday free.
I’m still not completely in the clear yet. Sometimes I’m still really tired come Thursday and when I feel myself starting to take on too much I have to make a conscious effort to let something else go or say No.
I love having me time now and when I crave it nothing is going to get in the way, not even me.
Featured image is ‘The Tired Artist’ by ABlackInkArtist from Creative Commons.